Ten years ago when Katrina hit, Dr. Kiersta Kurtz-Burke didn’t evacuate. Instead she stayed inside New Orleans’ Charity Hospital, where she worked for six days, caring for 18 patients on the 5th floor. There was no power, and it seemed like no one was coming to rescue them. Before they were finally evacuated, Kiersta—who was part of the last group of people to leave—helped clean up the space for when her staff returned. "We didn't want it to look messy," she remembers. "We were naive."
Charity never opened after Hurricane Katrina, and Kiersta never got to properly thank the people who she worked with through the storm. "That's still something I would love," she tells me. Shortly after the storm, Kiersta started working at the VA hospital in New Orleans, where she still works today.
Kiersta's home was heavily damaged during the storm, and rebuilding took years. "We just had a feeling of, 'Can we slog through this?'" she says. But she stayed, and is now raising two kids in the city with her husband. "We just got too weird for any place else other than New Orleans," she laughs.Dr. Kiersta Kurtz-Burke in front of Charity Hospital, which has stood abandoned for ten years. (Rush Jagoe) Kierta Kurtz-Burke, with her children, Vida and Leo, and her husband, Justin.